Matar Paneer Masala
Matar paneer was introduced to me by my husband. He would always order it at this little Tamil place that we would eat at while we were dating and beyond. I totally fell in love with it (and him as well) and it became a favourite and a must order item when we ate out at any East Indian place. Also on that list is saag paneer and aloo gobi. I will share my renditions of those another time though. This recipe is all about the matar, mattar, mutter, muttar paneer depending on where you are from
and how you spell and pronounce it.
I always wanted to make it and got down to the business of researching how and what spices make up this beautiful dish. My rendition had to be tasty but also simple and with ingredients I can access here in Trinidad. I got a bit of directional and authentic flavour inspiration from mytastycurry.com as well as @singh.monisha. She is the reason I got inspired to actually make it because she made it on her stories one day (the sauce part that is) and I’m glad I watched because it made it seem totally doable. My recipe isn’t exactly like either because I don’t have all the ingredients they have but I used some basic principles from their recipes and from several others I looked up and tried. This combo I put together really is what I was looking for in a great homemade matar paneer and although it may not be 100 percent the authentic way of making it, it sure tastes authentic and is super delicious.
Let’s talk about the paneer or cheese part itself. I have never bought paneer from a grocery store back home so I didn’t even look for it here. I decided I was going to just make some myself. I saw a recipe for it in a Trinidadian cookbook called Naparima girls’ cookbook and compared it to a recipe for paneer from thekitchn.com and basically made it based on the two recipes. It was easier than I thought and it turned out fabulous! I’m glad it did because I have no idea where I would find paneer ready made here. Has anyone seen it ready made here in Trinidad? Would love to know. Another great alternative is using tofu which we actually do have here and can find generally anytime. It’s a great vegan option for this dish as well.
Enough blabber from me though. In the recipes below I have listed the substitutions I had to make to get the flavours intended! Hope you try this because it’s totally worth the effort! It’s absolutely delicious! My husband loved it and said we don’t ever have to go out for East Indian food ever again. Clear sign that it’s that good, so I was pretty happy about that. If you have made it and have any further additions to the recipe, let me know!
Paneer recipe adapted from Thekitchn.com & Naparima Girls’ Cookbook
- 4 cups full fat whole milk
- 12 oz full fat yoghurt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- Cooking Thermometer
- Cheese cloth or clean dish towel for straining
- In a medium sauce pan, on medium heat, slowly bring the milk to a very low simmer (want the temp to reach 200 degrees F, this is where a thermometer comes in handy, and you want the temp to hang around that as a maximum)
- Once it reaches that temp remove from heat and add yoghurt and lemon juice and stir gently to combine - the milk will immediately start to curdle
- Cover the pot and let sit off the heat for approx 10 minutes
- In the meantime setup your strainer over a large bowl and line with the cheesecloth- should be folded to make at least 3 layers if not four
- Remove lid from pot and stir in salt and then pour the milk and curds through the cheesecloth letting all the liquid pass through.
- Holding all ends of the cheesecloth. Start to squeeze out more of the liquids by hand
- Once most if not all liquid is squeezed and you have a little mass of cheese formed (will look like a ball) place it on a plate and flatten it by pressing it down with your hand into a rectangular disc until its approx ½ - ¾ inch thick.
- Place a plate over the cheese disc and add a weight to it (I used a glass bottle of tahini but a canned good would do the trick also) to strain all the water
- Place in the fridge and let strain with weight on it for approx 1-2 hours or overnight
- Remove from fridge, remove the cheese from the cheesecloth and place onto a cutting surface and cut cheese into small cubes
- Marinate and then pan fry (directions for this below) or leave as is - it’s up to you
Marinade and prep for the paneer
- ½ cup yoghurt
- ½ tsp of dried ginger powder or some freshly grated
- ½ tsp chilli powder or paprika
- ½ tsp of curry
- ½ tsp coriander powder - grind in mortar and pestle if you don’t have pre-ground, that’s what I did
- 2-3 tbsp of coconut oil for pan frying paneer
- Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl except for the oil and gently toss the cube pieces of paneer in the marinade and refrigerate while you prep the rest of the meal
- In a frying pan heat oil up to medium and pan fry each cube of paneer until golden brown on all sides. Will require a little patience and time but worth it for the extra flavour added.
- Line a dish with a paper towel and rest the paneer on it after it’s out of the pan.
NOTE: this step of marinating and frying is totally optional. I do it because it adds more flavour to the entire dish and to the paneer itself. Also if you are using tofu as the paneer part - you can marinate and toss the tofu cubes in the ingredients above minus the yoghurt if you’re vegan unless you use coconut yoghurt and you can then pan fry as mentioned above. This adds a ton of flavour to the tofu and strongly recommend this step if you are using tofu cubes in place of the paneer
Matar Curry sauce
Serves approx 4-6
- 2-3 tbsp of coconut oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic chopped
- 2 green chilli peppers, or one jalapeño pepper or I didn’t have either so I used a few chopped pimento peppers for the flavour without too much heat
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp dill weed
- ½ tsp fennel seeds (the combo of dill weed and fennel seeds are a good substitute for fenugreek which I do not have and couldn’t find here)
- ½ tsp cardamon powder
- 4-6 tomatoes chopped or a can of diced, crushed or whole tomatoes
- A pinch of coconut sugar or brown sugar
- ½ cup of almonds that have been soaked for approx. an hour or more (optional - I like the texture they add to the sauce)
- 1 tbsp butter or ghee (or coconut oil if keeping the recipe vegan)
- ¾ cup of coconut milk/ cream
- ½ cup of water or more to thin out the sauce a bit if needed
- 1½ cups of frozen green peas
- 1½ tsp of garam masala
- 1½ tsp turmeric powder
- 2-3 tbsp of coriander leaves (I could not get any coriander leaves so a good substitute is cilantro or chadon beni which is what I used)
- Heat a large shallow pan to medium and heat up the coconut oil.
- Add the onions, garlic, peppers, cumin seeds, dill weed, fennel seeds and coriander and sauté until the onion is translucent and golden brown and spices are very fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes and sauté for another 5-10 minutes until everything is tender
- Carefully place all the ingredients from the pan as well as the soaked and drained almonds into a food processor to purée and make into a thick sauce or paste. (This is optional - you can have a chunkier paneer if you would like but I prefer a creamier one myself)
- Put the pan back on medium heat and melt the butter or ghee- then add back the sauce or paste from food processor and heat it up and add the water and the peas and turmeric and the garam masala and coconut milk
- Stir everything up well to combine and allow to simmer for a few minutes until the peas are cooked though then add the paneer and simmer for a few more minutes until the paneer is heated through as well and sauce is nice and creamy. Stir in chopped coriander, cilantro or chadon beni.
- Sprinkle with more chopped coriander, cilantro or chadon beni. Serve with rice, naan, roti or all of the above and enjoy!!